Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Adventures in Arkansas

If you live north of the Mason-Dixon Line or west of the Mississippi, there’s a good chance you might not know much about Hot Springs, Arkansas. You may not ever have heard of the place, despite its claim to fame as the boyhood home of Bill Clinton or the site of some of the most healing waters in the country.

But when hubby and I decided to explore someplace different over spring break, that’s where we headed. Turns out that Hot Springs, located 60 miles from Little Rock, 200 miles from Memphis, 300 miles from Oklahoma City, and a stone’s throw from the Texas border, is a pretty neat place to visit.

First of all, it’s the oldest and smallest park in the National Park Service and home to 47 hot springs. Although most of the bathhouses originally established on the famous Bathhouse Row are now closed, visitors can still enjoy a traditional bath at Buckstaff Bathhouse. There, you’ll be treated to a whirlpool bath in the mineral-rich waters, a stay in the steam room, a needle shower, and if you’d like, a massage to finish it off. Decadent!

Then horse racing enthusiasts can head over to the Oaklawn Racetrack (we didn’t), or tourists can take in any number of sights on Central Avenue, downtown. The first Friday of every month features a “Gallery Walk,” too, which we were lucky enough to enjoy. Arkansas has some great local talent, that’s for sure! And with crystal and diamond mines nearby, you can find some terrific jewelry made of native stones and minerals.

Speaking of the diamond mines, since its featured appearance on the Travel Channel, Crater of Diamonds State Park in nearby Murfreesboro has seen an upswing in visitors, all hoping to find the next big sparkler and head to early retirement. We followed the crowd, purchasing our tickets to dig and renting shovels and screens to sift through the dirt along with the rest of them. Beautiful day - but no diamonds for us! The soil is pretty sticky and clay-like, tough to sift and challenging to work through. Still, we had fun and found a lot of cool rocks. You can take home whatever you find.

Finally, since Little Rock is only an hour away, and since we flew in and out of that airport anyway, our trip wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to the Clinton Presidential Library. Established in 2004, it’s a beautiful, environmentally friendly building with a huge collection of artifacts, documents, and video clips about the Clinton Presidency. Whatever your political beliefs, it’s still great to see a slice of history, up close. The Library is situated right on the Arkansas River and the Riverwalk area, too, with a wide variety of restaurants within walking distance.

If only the weather had cooperated more (it was the middle of that cold front that swept the country over Easter weekend) - or if only we’d packed more long-sleeved shirts and fewer pairs of shorts. Still, it was neat to visit a state we’d never been to before. We enjoyed our 4 days in Hot Springs thoroughly!


Marianne Arkins said...

I wish my DH liked to travel more... You guys are having so much fun! Looks like a wonderful trip.

Diane Craver said...

Fantastic pictures and glad you had a nice time even though the weather wasn't the greatest.

bunnygirl said...

Thanks for the travel info! I didn't know there were still bathhouses open. I've always been intrigued by the idea of "healing" waters and the spa culture that has traditionally grown up around them.

Too bad you didn't find a diamond, though!

Isabel & Sauveur said...

beautiful picture and beautiful country that the your
your blogg it's very nice
goodbye and good day

Mom said...

Ali, Enjoyed the photos and travel notes. Have to put Hot Springs on my list of travel destinations!

Darn, thought you'd get rich on a diamoond find!

rebecca said...

It's great to hear what a wonderful time you had visiting Hot Springs, and also to see the positive comments other folks have shared.

Recently geographer Warren Bland named Hot Springs, Ark. the No. 1 place in America to retire.

I gotta admit, Hot Springs is a pretty cool place to live, even for those of us who aren't yet retired.

Rebecca McCormick,
Feature writer, Hot Springs Life & Home
Travel writer, Hot Springs Village Voice
and Gannett News Service